Tag: Iraq War

THE WEEK THAT WAS: ANTI-WAR LIBERALS MISINTERPRET CHILCOT REPORT; & REMEMBERING ELIE WIESEL: “LAST OF THE GREAT WITNESSES”

The Chilcot Rorschach Test: Terry Glavin, National Post, July 6, 2016— Former British prime minister Tony Blair is a war criminal who colluded with former U.S. president George W. Bush to wage an illegal war against Iraq…

Crucible of Grief: Barbara Kay, The Walrus, July 3, 2016— I only saw Elie Wiesel in person once. He spoke at McGill University, when I was there doing graduate studies in literature.

Elie Wiesel Address to Yom Hashoah Rally at Durban II, 2009: UNWatch, July 4, 2016 —A story. Somewhere in Europe, during that time, one of the killers addressed his young victim, saying: “You want to live and perhaps you will live.

Fleeing the Czars, Defying Gravity: A Fourth of July Immigrant Tale: Warren Kozak, Wall Street Journal, July 1, 2016— On July 4, 1900, Samuel Hoffman and his father, Moshe, walked across the gangplank of a ferryboat that unceremoniously dumped them, along with a large group of fellow immigrants, at a dock on 14th Street in Manhattan.

 

On Topic Links

 

CIJR "Jewish Thought of Emil Fackenheim Conference" (Toronto, 2015): Prof. Elie Wiesel (Video): CIJR, Nov. 3, 2015

"Jewish Thought of Emil Fackenheim Conference" (Toronto, 2015): Prof. Emil L. Fackenheim (Video): CIJR, Nov. 3, 2015

After Fleeing the Nazis, a Legacy That Won’t Run Dry: Seth M. Siegel, Wall Street Journal, June 23, 2016

Inside the Nazi Camp on Long Island: Gil Troy, Daily Beast, July 2, 2016

 

 

 

THE CHILCOT RORSCHACH TEST

Terry Glavin                                                        

National Post, July 6, 2016

 

Former British prime minister Tony Blair is a war criminal who colluded with former U.S. president George W. Bush to wage an illegal war against Iraq, which was based on the lie that then-Iraqi president Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and was secretly preparing to deploy them, the long-awaited Chilcot report revealed Wednesday. Except it revealed nothing of the kind.

 

To fans of British Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, the Chilcot report should be read as a kind of Rorschach test — those experiments psychiatrists sometimes use to determine what their patients imagine they are seeing in the shapes of inkblots. If you are virtuous and righteous and of upstanding progressive character, you are expected to see one thing — and one thing only. Blair is an unpardonable villain; a war criminal. Corbyn is a matchless anti-war hero.

 

There are lies involved in all this, of course, and a whole slough of fabricated pretexts for foreign policies that have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent Arabs, and indeed the massacres continue, as the Chilcot report notices. But these transgressions can just as easily be laid at the feet of the triumphalist anti-war leaders who are at the moment loudly and hysterically gloating over findings that appear nowhere in any of the report’s 6,275 pages.

 

There is much in the result of John Chilcot’s seven-year inquiry into the decision-making that led to Britain’s involvement in the 2003 invasion of Iraq that can be cited to excuse headlines that refer to his findings as “scathing” and “damning.” Blair overestimated his ability to influence American decision-making, attached a greater certainty to the threat posed by Saddam Hussein than was justified, committed nowhere near the resources necessary to stabilize a post-Baathist Iraq and didn’t adequately consider the possibility that the intelligence reports about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction were faulty.

 

Fair enough. It is not as though Chilcot’s mandate included any contemplation of the circumstances that would have prevailed had the Iraqi strongman been allowed to remain in power. And Chilcot certainly wasn’t asked to wonder aloud about how much blood is on the hands of Blair’s fiercest political enemies for having succeeded in ensuring that the U.S. and Britain and the rest of the NATO alliance permitted Syrian dictator Bashar Assad to carry out relentless massacres of his own people for six long years.

 

In the narrower confines of his mandate, Chilcot concluded that Blair failed to fully exhaust “peaceful options for disarmament” before deciding to sign up with the American adventure. “Military action at that time was not a last resort,” states the report. Well, if you say so. But that requires ignoring quite a few subjects Chilcot wasn’t admonished to address himself to, sensationally or otherwise. Not least: the reasonable apprehension among Iraqi Kurds well before 2003 that anti-war sentiment was already weakening the Anglo-American resolve to continue enforcing a no-fly zone in northern Iraq, which was the only thing standing in the way of a revival of Saddam Hussein’s genocidal war against them.

 

Look away from Chilcot’s inkblot for a moment and you’ll notice the gaping wounds in Kurdistan that remain from what transpired in the 1980s: the 4,500 emptied villages from the days when Baathist forces slaughtered as many as 180,000 Kurds, most notoriously the 7,000 civilians who were suffocated to death by poison gas dropped by Saddam Hussein’s warplanes in 1988. You would need to expunge such things from your memory to wash the stain of guilt out of the triumphant anti-war faction of the British Labour Party for having had its way in the matter of Syria so thoroughly that roughly half a million innocents have been slaughtered, while NATO has stood by and watched since 2010.

 

This is what anti-war politics looks like to Syrians. Nobody is in the dock for that. The anti-war politicians who have risen to power in Washington, London, Ottawa and Brussels have never had to explain why they were offering the persecuted people of Iraq nothing that was in any way more useful to them than the shoddy, outrageously ill-planned intervention that was on offer from Blair and Bush back in 2003.

 

This is one of the main reasons the Chilcot report and the lies making the rounds about its contents are such a boon to Corbyn and his supporters. They have been salivating about the report’s release. Now they rail against the “Blairite vermin” they are so successfully driving from positions of influence in the party. It is the perfect distraction from Corbyn’s moral and intellectual vacuity and his catastrophic leadership, which only a few days ago resulted in his loss of a confidence vote among his fellow Labour MPs, 172 to 40.

 

Corbyn can now be cast by all his friends in the “progressive” press as having been right all along, as if his chairmanship of Britain’s Stop The War Coalition, which he vacated only two years ago to take up Labour’s top post, is something to be proud of, as if any association with that cesspit of Assad supporters and fanciers of Russian President Vladimir Putin is not something a proper socialist would be rightly ashamed about.

 

While we’re all seeing whatever we want to see in Chilcot’s Rorschach test, our gaze is conveniently averted from Corbyn’s abdication of leadership on every file — sometimes through sheer incompetence and sometimes on purpose — from his milquetoast advocacy of Labour’s “Remain” policy in the recent referendum, to his catastrophic indifference to the anti-Semitism that has been prominent in the party since the Corbynites took over in 2015.

 

Don’t worry about the thousands of pounds Corbyn has been earning through his gig with Press TV, Iran’s English-language propaganda channel. Let’s keep on telling ourselves comforting lies about how much we care about the deaths of Arab innocents, of Kurdish innocents, of gay Iranian men hanged from cranes. Let’s not even think about the hospitals Putin’s bombers have demolished — after all, we “provoked” him to annex Crimea, didn’t we? — or the millions of refugees pouring out of Syria, the tunnels our “friends” in Hamas (as Corbyn has described them) are digging in preparation for another wave of terror attacks against innocent Israeli civilians, which we will of course hail as heroic resistance. Let’s talk about Tony Blair the war criminal instead.           

 

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CRUCIBLE OF GRIEF                                                                                                       

Barbara Kay                                                                                                       

The Walrus, July 3, 2016

 

I only saw Elie Wiesel in person once. He spoke at McGill University, when I was there doing graduate studies in literature. As I recall, it was the fall of 1964, but could have been 1965. I don’t remember his exact text, but Wiesel only had one theme, and I am sure he didn’t tell us anything he had not told many other audiences. But it was only partially the desire to hear Wiesel’s message that had filled the hall. It was the messenger we were curious to see, his aura to experience.

 

I had by coincidence just finished reading a novel by André Scwartz-Bart, The Last of the Just, a bestseller in 1959, following fairly closely on the dramatic overture of Holocaust-themed literature by Wiesel’s Night in 1955. Both books spoke to a burgeoning hunger to comprehend the Holocaust after the prolonged, anorexic silence that had followed it. (Throughout the 1950s, even such famed Jewish New York intellectuals as Norman Podhoretz, Alfred Kazin, Paul Goodman, Irving Howe, Leslie Fiedler, and others did not write, except glancingly, about the Holocaust. It was too dazzling a light; the pupil of their intellectual eyes contracted.)

 

Wiesel’s memoir grappled with the reality of the pure evil he had witnessed, and his struggle to maintain his faith in humanity. Schwartz-Bart, a Polish Jew whose family had been murdered by the Nazis, chose fiction and an old Jewish legend to channel his bottomless sorrow.

 

According to this legend—that of the thirty-six lamed vov tzadikkim—there are at all times in the world thirty-six just and righteous men, the best among us, on whose shoulders hope for humanity depends. Schwartz-Bart explained their purpose in his novel, in which he traces a family of lamed-vovs through eight centuries, ending with the death of the last in Auschwitz: “if just one of the were lacking, the sufferings of mankind would poison even the souls of the newborn, and humanity would suffocate with a single cry. For the Lamed-Vov are the hearts of the world multiplied, and into them, as into one receptacle, pour all our griefs.”

 

One Book-of-the-Month Club judge said of The Last of the Just, it was “the saddest novel I have ever read, almost as sad as history.” Yes, that was my feeling, too, and it set my mood perfectly for an encounter with Elie Wiesel, the man I, and many other Jews, perceived as a Lamed Vov for our era. That was indeed how Wiesel appeared to me: humble, righteous, luminous with memory, a man consumed by sorrow, but quietly, involuntarily afire with his received mission: to teach us to remember without falling into despair, to fully acknowledge the depth of human depravity without losing sight of the goodness, the justice and the love of which we are all capable.

 

I am not imagining the spreading glow in that room, as though we were dry tinder and every word a tiny spark. I remember where I sat. I remember my heart quickening under the spell of those haunted dark eyes and sweetly propulsive exhortations. It was a defining moment in my life. I had gone through a religious phase that lasted several years in my late adolescence. Although cognitively educated about the Holocaust, I had been numbed by its preposterousness and had not fully internalized it. My eyes were open, but not my heart.

 

Wiesel forced me to come to terms with how I was going to live as a Jew who had once believed there was a God who loved his people, Israel. My impulse, when the enormity of the Holocaust fully penetrated, had been to abandon God altogether, as He had abandoned His people. I did not take Wiesel’s spiritual fervour to mean a renewed relationship with the God of our ancestors. I took it to mean a renewed faith in the survival of the Jewish people, with or without God’s help, with or without God.  After I encountered Wiesel, I decided that I would also retain my faith in the destiny of the Jewish people, and lend whatever skills I had to supporting Israel’s fight for survival. As for God, I would not exactly abandon Him, but I would no longer be on speaking terms with Him. (This is a concept that my Christian friends find difficult to understand.)

 

It is a commonplace on these occasions to say things like “we will not see his like again,” when in fact we see “his like” again and again. But this is one occasion for which the platitude is truly apt. There are few living witnesses to the Holocaust left who were old enough to understand what they were seeing. Of them there were only a precious few who had the sensibility and the eloquence to convey what they witnessed in a memorable and consequential way. Wiesel was the last of the great witnesses to the greatest evil in human history. And perhaps the last of the lamed vovniks as well.

 

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ELIE WIESEL ADDRESS TO YOM HASHOAH RALLY AT DURBAN II, 2009                                                 

UNWatch, July 4, 2016

 

A story. Somewhere in Europe, during that time, one of the killers addressed his young victim, saying: “You want to live and perhaps you will live. But one day, you will regret it. You will speak, but your words will fall on deaf ears. Some will make fun of you. Others will try to redeem themselves through you. You will call it a scandal, cry for revolt, but people will refuse to believe or listen to you. You will curse me for having spared you. You will curse me because you will have knowledge of the truth. You already do. But it is the truth of a madman.”

 

This story illustrates the fear and anguish of a survivor. How does one bear witness? Where does one find the words to say what we nowadays call the “unspeakable”? Whom must one remember first? The children? The elderly? The sick? Mothers who watched their children die? Older people who moved toward the flames with prayers on their lips? Which of these? Is it necessary to delve deeper and even ask how it was possible?

 

After all, we are talking about an event of cosmic dimensions. Everything had been programmed since the beginning, the first laws, the decrees, the various measures taken. The psychologists had to invent the means to deceive the victims, the architects to construct the barracks and gas chambers, the intellectuals to justify what had been undertaken, meaning to annihilate a people, the only people from antiquity to have survived antiquity. Just how was it possible for all this to happen in a civilized world, in the heart of Christian Europe, to take families, communities, to condemn them to death and then invent a kind of science: how to annihilate them most quickly? How is it possible that in 1944 the Hungarian Jews, who could have been saved, were not saved?

 

It began in our town three days after Passover. First, a way to build the ghetto – but we did not know its consequences yet. Eichmann had already arrived in Budapest at the head of a small commando unit of 200 people, which included the cooks, drivers, and secretaries. With 200 people, and the help of the Hungarian army, he had succeeded in deporting 500,000 to 600,000 men, women and children. Thus by Shavuot, seven weeks later, six weeks later, we were already in Auschwitz. In our town there was a woman who worked in our home, an elder illiterate Christian, but she brought honor to Christianity. She came to the ghetto to bring us fruit and other food. On the eve of the evacuations, she had come to our home, I remember, and she begged and cried while telling my father to accompany her to the mountains, where she had a small house, and she was saying: “All of you come with me – I will take care of you!”

 

And my father said, quoting in front of us all, “Al Tifrosh Min Hatzibur,” we must not be separated from the community, this is a Jewish principle. What happens to all will happen to us. So it happened, there were the train wagons, the clubs beating us. And the journey toward the unknown. You know by now how it was carried out. Upon arrival three days later, the train stops at a station. My father looks out a small opening and reads the station’s name: Auschwitz. And he did not know what it meant, nor did we.

 

But here in Geneva, it was already known. At the Vatican, it was already known. In Washington, it was already known. In London, it was already known. In Stockholm, it was already known. But we, the victims, we did not know. I tell you that had we known, most of my community would have survived, because the good Christian woman was not alone. There were other Christians in our town who would have accepted to house and thus save families. But we did not know.

 

Explain to me how this was possible? How is it that no one in the world had sent emissaries? The radio broadcasts, Roosevelt, de Gaulle in France, from London: no warning to us. It was two weeks – not even – ten days before the Normandy landing. Ten days! The war was finished. But we did not know. How is it that the Allies did not bomb the railroad tracks leading to Birkenau? I have known five United States presidents and I posed this question to each in the Oval Office: “Explain to me why the Allies did not bomb the railways – and I’m not talking about the camps, because some said that they did not want to kill the victims, the prisoners – but the railways? During that time, 10,000 people per day vanished in the ovens. Who can explain this to me? I just do not understand.”…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]    

 

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FLEEING THE CZARS, DEFYING GRAVITY:                                                     

A FOURTH OF JULY IMMIGRANT TALE                                                                                         

Warren Kozak                                                                                                       

Wall Street Journal, July 1, 2016

 

On July 4, 1900, Samuel Hoffman and his father, Moshe, walked across the gangplank of a ferryboat that unceremoniously dumped them, along with a large group of fellow immigrants, at a dock on 14th Street in Manhattan. Independence Day for these newcomers meant liberation from czarist Russia. New Yorkers were used to seeing confused, freshly arrived immigrants walking through lower Manhattan, but these two stood out. It was a searing-hot summer day and both father and son wore winter overcoats and boots.

 

“Our clothing and awkward bundles on our backs, as we walked along 14th Street, drew everyone’s attention to us,” Samuel Hoffman wrote at age 83 in an account for his family. “I was 15 years old, bewildered and almost overcome by the alien and unfamiliar scenes that stretched and throbbed all around father and me.” Like most immigrants, they couldn’t speak the language. Coming from a small village in Russia, they had never seen anything even remotely like New York City. They could have arrived from another planet. All they had to guide them was a piece of paper with the address of a distant relative who lived on the Lower East Side.

 

After generations of extreme poverty and religious persecution, Moshe and his more savvy wife, Yetta, had decided to sell their house and borrow enough money to pay for two tickets to America. The plan was that father and son would then earn enough money in the New World to bring over the rest of the family. Constant hunger was a hallmark of Samuel’s childhood in Russia. His daily diet had consisted of one piece of black bread and a potato dipped in herring sauce for flavor. Occasionally there were onions and radishes and a glass of milk for the children. It had been that way for generations and there was little chance it would ever change.

 

Breaking with tradition, Yetta chose to send Samuel instead of her eldest son. Although Samuel looked even younger than 15, Yetta believed that he would fare better than his older brother. She knew her son. There was no government assistance for the giant wave of immigrants to America at the turn of the 20th century. Instead, like all the immigrants that had come before, they would fend for themselves. They also helped each other. The distant relative on the Lower East Side took in Samuel and Moshe, even though, with three children and two boarders in only three rooms, that was a challenge. Another distant cousin, with a larger home in Brooklyn, soon took them in until they could afford a room of their own.

 

After a series of jobs that brought in more money, and going to school at night to learn English, Samuel started his own business. He bought nine sewing machines on credit and hired employees. Many trades were closed to Jews, but the garment industry seemed to belong to them. After two difficult years, during which the 20-year-old businessman worked 20 hours a day and lost money, his business began to improve. He hired more employees, bought more sewing machines and moved to larger and larger spaces. A terrible experience with a sadistic foreman in one of his early jobs had taught him the importance of treating his workers with respect and paying them fairly.

 

By 1915, merely 15 years after Samuel had arrived, his  S.L. Hoffman manufacturing company occupied a seven-story, block-long building and was the largest producer of inexpensive women’s dresses in America, supplying Gimbels,  Macy’s,  Bloomingdale’s and Marshall Field’s. Samuel Hoffman would eventually serve on the boards of banks and educational institutions. At the end of his long life, Samuel believed that his real success lay not in business but in family. His only son, Burton, became an orthopedic surgeon. His grandsons: two doctors and two professors. This immigrant story might be like any of the millions of others in America—people arriving with nothing and succeeding beyond their dreams—except for one detail.

 

Samuel’s second-oldest grandson, Jeff Hoffman, to his mother’s distress, chose to study what sounded like a discipline with less-than-sturdy career prospects: astrophysics. But it worked out. Ninety-three years after his grandfather and great-grandfather had arrived in the New World wearing their winter clothes in midsummer, Jeff Hoffman donned another kind of unusual garb, left the space shuttle Endeavor, and floated 400 miles above the Earth in a mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope. Jeff Hoffman’s grandfather, who died in 1976, didn’t live to see his astronaut grandson’s 1993 trip, but chances are that Samuel, amazed by his own flight from a two-room, dirt-floor hut in Russia, wouldn’t have been surprised. Anything seemed possible in America, even sailing across the stars.

 

CIJR Wishes All Our Friends & Supporters: Shabbat Shalom!

 

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On Topic Links

 

"Jewish Thought of Emil Fackenheim Conference" (Toronto, 2015): Prof. Elie Wiesel (Video): CIJR, Nov. 3, 2015— Special Video Presentation by Nobel Laureate Professor Elie Wiesel on the occasion of the Conference "The Jewish Thought of Emil L. Fackenheim: Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust, Israel", Chaired by Prof. Frederick Krantz (Toronto, Congregation Beth Tikva, November 3, 2015).    

"Jewish Thought of Emil Fackenheim Conference" (Toronto, 2015): Prof. Emil L. Fackenheim (Video): CIJR, Nov. 3, 2015— Special Video Presentation by Emil Fackenheim on the occasion of the Conference "The Jewish Thought of Emil L. Fackenheim: Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust, Israel", Chaired by Prof. Frederick Krantz (Toronto, Congregation Beth Tikva, November 3, 2015).    

After Fleeing the Nazis, a Legacy That Won’t Run Dry: Seth M. Siegel, Wall Street Journal, June 23, 2016—How does one overcome almost unimaginable horror and trauma? For Holocaust survivors Howard and Lottie Marcus, the healing came, in part, from the hope that they could help to provide refuge for other Jews who might find themselves at risk.

Inside the Nazi Camp on Long Island: Gil Troy, Daily Beast, July 2, 2016—For 14 million American kids and adults, summertime means camptime. Over these next two months, each of more than 14,000 day camps and sleepaway camps will initiate campers into their own particular, delightfully kooky, universes. The camps create 24/7 cocoons with their own lingo and songs, rituals, and codes, devoted to mastering computers or losing weight, to becoming better Zionists or learning golf, to recreating Native American traditions or designing software.

 

 

 

 

IN IRAQ—IRAN PLAYS KEY ROLE IN ANTI-I.S. BATTLE; MEANWHILE, IRAQI JEWS COMMEMORATE FARHUD

Trading One Islamic State for Another: Max Boot, Commentary, June 3, 2016— The Iraqi offensive to retake the city of Fallujah stalled this past week after meeting terrific resistance from Islamic State fighters…

The Next US Victory in Iraq May Just Mean Another Crisis: Judith Miller & Charles Duelfer, New York Post, May 15, 2016— President Obama could end his presidency with a crisis in Iraq of his own making.

The Difficult and Important Task of Commemorating the Destruction of Iraqi Jewry: Ben Cohen, JNS, June 3, 2016— Every Iraqi Jew has a tale to tell about the Farhud, the two-day pogrom that befell the Jews of Baghdad 75 years ago in June 1941.

Today is D-Day — You Knew That, Right?: Jerry Amernic, National Post, June 6, 2016— Monday, June 6 is the 72nd anniversary of D-Day. What’s that again?

 

On Topic Links

 

Our Iranian Allies: Lee Smith, Weekly Standard, June, 2016

The Militia Commander Beating Back ISIS in Iraq Makes the U.S. Nervous: Nour Malas, Wall Street Journal, June 2, 2016

Iraq's Uncertain Future: Amatzia Baram, Middle East Forum, May 23, 2016

Painful Lessons from the 75th Anniversary of the Farhud: Edwin Black, Jewish Press, June 1, 2016

 

 

TRADING ONE ISLAMIC STATE FOR ANOTHER                                                                

Max Boot                                                                                

Commentary, June 3, 2016

 

The Iraqi offensive to retake the city of Fallujah stalled this past week after meeting terrific resistance from Islamic State fighters and amid concerns about all the civilians, including 20,000 children, still trapped inside that city. But the push to take Fallujah will resume before long, and in all likelihood it will succeed, albeit at considerable human cost. The question is: Who will benefit? The Obama administration and the American military will tout this as a big victory for the United States, the government of Iraq, and the anti-ISIS cause. In fact, it will be more of a victory for Iran than for anyone else, because of the prominent role played by Iranian militias in this offensive.

 

This is a fact that American officials would prefer to deny or obfuscate. Look, for example, at what the State Department spokesman, retired Admiral John Kirby, said on June 1: “To the degree Iraq’s neighbors are going to play a role with helping Iraq fight Daesh, we want them – all of them – to do it in a way that doesn’t further inflame sectarian tensions or increase those tensions. But that – the inclusive approach that he’s taking, if it can be effective on the battlefield, well, then that’s a good thing and obviously we want to encourage that.” Only in the minds of American officials can the approach of Shiite militias be described as “inclusive.” …

 

ABC News had a telling investigation of what the militias were up to last year: These “dirty brigades” were “often photographed carrying U.S.-made Colt M4 rifles manufactured in Connecticut or driving Humvees made in Indiana while torturing victims or proudly displaying severed heads. The U.S. equipment ended up in their hands presumably courtesy of the Iraqi military.”

 

Today, the Wall Street Journal’s Nour Malas has an eye-opening article about the de facto commander of the Shiite militias, who goes by the nom de guerre Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes. (His real name is said to be Jamal Jaafar Ibrahimi.) Although born in Iraq, he is a longtime Iranian operative closely associated with the Quds Force and its commander, General Qasem Suleimani, who is probably the most powerful man in Iraq today. Mohandes may well be the second or third most powerful. Not only does he control the Popular Mobilization Forces, as the militias are known, but he also exerts tremendous influence over the more mainstream government security forces. “He signs off on things, gets cash, gets the cars,” the Journal quotes Moeen al-Khadhimi, a senior member of the Badr Organization, the largest faction in the PMF, as saying.

 

Before achieving his current position of prominence, Mohandes masterminded an Iranian-backed attack against the U.S. and French embassies in Kuwait in 1983 — a crime for which he has been sentenced to death in absentia by a Kuwaiti court. More recently, he was a prime mover behind the Iranian-backed Special Groups that imported a particularly potent type of explosives known as EFPs (explosively formed penetrators) that could punch through the armor of American vehicles. These EFPs took a heavy toll in American lives and limbs before the U.S. pullout in 2011.

 

Mohandes, the Journal noted, “has since appeared in photos at meetings with the prime minister and defense officials, his beige guerrilla wear contrasting with the others’ dark suits. He has been overseeing militia operations against Islamic State he says aim to eventually retake Mosul, the Sunni-majority militant stronghold. For the past week and a half, he has appeared in the Fallujah command center leading PMF operations around the city.” This, then, is the person that the United States is aiding by carrying out air strikes in Fallujah. The U.S. can comfort itself that Mohandes isn’t actively targeting American personnel — at the moment. But there is little doubt he will gladly do so in the future if it will serve Iranian interests.

 

At the moment, however, Iran and its militias are able to take advantage of the American intervention in Iraq to pursue their own interests. As Mohandes often likes to say:  “The Americans may have the skies, but we own the land.” He could go even further and admit that the American control of the skies is furthering the militias’ control of the land. That is a high, indeed unacceptable, price to pay for rolling back the Islamic State. The U.S. is, in effect, substituting one Islamic State — the one headquartered in Tehran — for another. That’s not a trade-off we should make or have to make.

 

 

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MAY JUST MEAN ANOTHER CRISIS                                                            

Judith Miller & Charles Duelfer                                                                                   

New York Post, May 15, 2016

 

President Obama could end his presidency with a crisis in Iraq of his own making. In April, the president said the conditions for liberating Mosul from the Islamic State should be in place by year’s end. But Sunni Iraqi tribal leaders and Kurds are quietly warning that “doing Mosul” is likely to result not in military victory but a humanitarian and political disaster.

 

First, Iraq’s second-largest city is home to 1 million to 2 million people. ISIS, which hasn’t hesitated to slaughter fellow Arabs and flatten cities, has had ample time to prepare to take hostages and booby-trap buildings. Consider the Iraqi government’s recent “victory” in Ramadi, with a population far smaller than Mosul. ISIS virtually flattened it before being ousted in January. ISIS is even more deeply embedded in Mosul, which it has occupied since June 2014. Its fanatics haven’t hesitated to use chemical weapons in Syria and against Kurdish peshmerga forces.

 

An offensive would spread panic among the city’s beleaguered residents, who would be trapped inside Mosul along with their occupiers. Baghdad’s plans to liberate the city include strangling ISIS by laying siege to Mosul in preparation for a full assault. If Ramadi is any example, liberation could turn Mosul into an uninhabitable ghost town.

 

Second, Mosul’s Sunnis still distrust Baghdad. Many fear Iraq’s semi-independent Shiite militias, some backed by Iran and encouraged by former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, pose a greater long-term threat to them than ISIS. Horrific images of Shiite militia-inflicted atrocities vie on Sunni smartphone screens with ISIS’s beheadings and corporal punishments. Every family has a relative whom the militias have brutalized and killed.

 

Third, even if the US-backed Iraqi forces succeed in expelling ISIS from Mosul, then what? Who will occupy and administer the city? After the US occupation of Baghdad in April 2003, American officials gave Sunnis little stake in the planning for and future of a post-Saddam Hussein era. Why should Mosul’s Sunnis believe that the chaotic central government in Baghdad has their interests at heart? Many Sunnis continue to view the 2007 “surge” as a “bait and switch” by Washington, at their expense.

 

Fourth, Iran seems determined to continue fomenting conflict within Iraq as long as possible. Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Quds Force who fought against Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war in 1980-1988, has greater control over some militias than the nominal political leadership in Baghdad. Few Sunnis in Mosul believe that Baghdad can protect them. Fifth, chaos in Mosul could trigger even greater chaos in Baghdad. Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi seems to be trying to limit corruption and run a more inclusive regime. But trying to reclaim Mosul before Sunnis derive benefit from his efforts is risky, and American officials have signaled deep concern about the Abadi government’s stability.

 

No strong Sunni voices in Mosul have expressed support for the invasion/liberation of their city by Iraqi forces. They know all too well America won’t be there to protect them. Many continue to see the growing influence of Iran and its surrogate militias as a longer-term threat to their survival than ISIS, particularly given the nuclear deal with Iran, yet another signal of America’s realignment in the Middle East.

 

Obama faces a tough choice, perhaps more consequential than his decision to launch the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Should he try to encourage Iraqi forces to retake Mosul before leaving office to claim another victory over the radical jihadis he has vowed to “degrade and destroy,” or encourage Baghdad to wait until a more cohesive government is in place? While reclaiming Mosul would enable Obama to claim yet another “legacy” achievement, liberation of the city under current conditions is likely to result in more bloodshed, higher casualties, greater destruction and the creation of thousands more refugees in Iraq — a tragic, but utterly predictable coda to the Obama presidency.

                                                           

Contents                                                                                                                                                                          

THE DIFFICULT AND IMPORTANT TASK                                                            

OF COMMEMORATING THE DESTRUCTION OF IRAQI JEWRY                                                               

Ben Cohen                                                                                                                       

JNS, June 3, 2016

 

Every Iraqi Jew has a tale to tell about the Farhud, the two-day pogrom that befell the Jews of Baghdad 75 years ago in June 1941. In the case of my own family, it was a matter of heeding the advice of a Muslim business colleague of my grandfather, who told him that dark days were looming for the Jews, and that he would be wise to get his family out of the country as quickly as possible—which my grandfather did.

 

But my grandfather was part of a fortunate minority. When the Farhud—which means, in Arabic, “violent dispossession”—erupted, there were around 90,000 Jews still living in the Iraqi capital, the main component of a vibrant community descended from the sages who, 27 centuries earlier, had made the land once known as Babylon the intellectual and spiritual center of Judaism.

 

By the time the violent mob stood down, at the end of the festival of Shavuot, nearly 200 Jews lay dead, with hundreds more wounded, raped, and beaten. Hundreds of homes and businesses were burned to the ground. As the smoke cleared over a scene more familiar in countries like Russia, Poland, and Germany, the Jewish community came to the realization that it had no future in Iraq. Within a decade, almost the entire community had been chased out, joining a total of 850,000 Jews from elsewhere in the Arab world summarily dispossessed from their homes and livelihoods.

 

That the Farhud is even remembered today is in large part down to a handful of scholars and activists who have committed themselves to publicizing this terrible episode. During the week of the Farhud’s 75th anniversary, some of them—like the American writer Edwin Black and Lyn Julius, the British historian of Middle Eastern Jewry—have been organizing memorial ceremonies in the U.S., the U.K., and especially Israel, which absorbed the great majority of Iraqi-Jewish refugees. I myself was honored to address the memorial ceremony at New York City’s Safra Synagogue, where 27 candles—one for each century of the Jewish presence in Iraq—were lit and then promptly snuffed out, to symbolize the sudden extinction of Iraqi Jewry.

 

Commemorating the Farhud, and establishing its rightful place as an example of the persecution of the Jews during the Nazi era, has been a difficult task. For several decades after the Second World War, the importance of the Farhud was subsumed by the widely held notion that the Holocaust was something that consumed only European Jews. The truth was that the Nazis had both a direct presence and significant influence across the Arab world. So when, in 1941, the British had suffered a series of blows in southern Europe and North Africa, the time was right for a coup against the pro-British government in Baghdad. The strategic goal of the Nazis was to seize Iraq’s oil fields, thereby providing them with the fuel needed for the invasion of the Soviet Union.

 

In April, the month my grandfather and his family left Iraq, a local Nazi lackey, Rashid Ali al Ghailani, seized power, believing that an alliance with Hitler would create the conditions for Iraq’s national independence. Rashid Ali’s principal supporter was the pro-Nazi Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, who arrived in Baghdad in 1939 having escaped British arrest. Until then, the mufti’s main role had involved inciting genocidal violence against the Jewish community in British Mandatory Palestine, which was especially pronounced during the Arab revolt of 1936-39. Once in Iraq, the mufti solidified his Nazi loyalties, meeting with Hitler in Berlin in November 1941 and later organizing Bosnian and Albanian Muslims into the “Handzar” division of the SS.

 

The Farhud itself should not be seen as a spontaneous outburst. For days before the violence, a steady stream of anti-Jewish propaganda was broadcast on the radio. Members of what Lyn Julius describes as a “proto-Nazi youth movement,” the Futuwwa, began daubing Jewish homes and businesses with red paint in the shape of a palm, in order to make the passage of the rioters easier.

 

Their actions were, in common with all pogromists in all locations, unspeakable. In his memoir of the Farhud, “In the Alleys of Baghdad,” Salim Fattal recalled the “murderers and rapists…who abused their victims to their heart’s content, with no let or hindrance. They slit throats, slashed off limbs, smashed skulls. They made no distinction between women, children, and old people. In that gory scene, blind hatred of Jews and the joy of murder for its own sake reinforced each other.” Babies and young children were thrown into the Tigris river, some of them butchered with swords only moments before.

 

Ironically, the Farhud occurred a few days after Rashid Ali himself fled Iraq, following a failed attack on a Royal Air Force base. As the violence escalated, British troops, who were just eight miles from the city, could have intervened. But as the historian Tony Rocca explained to the BBC, “Sir Kinahan Cornwallis, Britain’s ambassador in Baghdad, for reasons of his own, held our forces at bay in direct insubordination to express orders from Winston Churchill that they should take the city and secure its safety. Instead, Sir Kinahan went back to his residence, had a candlelight dinner, and played a game of bridge.”

 

Thus began the process of making Iraq, like much of Europe, judenrein. It was a process that soon enveloped the rest of the Arab world. Six months after the war’s end, anti-Semitic riots broke out in Libya and Egypt. Those Jews who remained in Iraq, around 140,000 of them, endured a raft of discriminatory legislation reminiscent of the Nuremburg Laws. These led, during the early 1950s, to their complete expropriation.

 

As terrible as it is to say this, part of the reason that the Farhud remains a relatively obscure event is because the expelled Iraqi Jews became victims of their own subsequent success, creating new lives in Israel, the U.S., Canada, and Europe. Unlike the Palestinian Arabs, they were not permanently stamped with the mark of the refugee, meaning that their pleas for justice have always been regarded as a historical question, rather than a pressing geopolitical concern.

 

At the New York ceremony for the Farhud anniversary, many of the speakers invoked the post-Holocaust slogan “Never Again!” As noble as that idea is, when it comes to the Arab world, it is also a simple statement of fact. There will be no more Farhuds in that region, because, outside of the sovereign State of Israel, there are hardly any Jews remaining in the area upon whom to re-inflict the bestialities witnessed in June 1941.

                                                                                                                                                                                   

Contents

 

                                         

TODAY IS D-DAY — YOU KNEW THAT, RIGHT?       

Jerry Amernic                                                                                                                      

National Post, June 6, 2016

 

Monday, June 6 is the 72nd anniversary of D-Day. What’s that again? Well, if you don’t know, it was the invasion by Allied forces of Nazi-occupied Europe on the beaches of Normandy. In France. Canada played a major role that day. Along with forces from the United States and Britain, 14,000 Canadians stormed Juno Beach and when the day was done those Canadians penetrated farther inland than any other Allied forces. But the price was high: 359 Canadians died and 715 were wounded. Another 18,700 Canadians were later killed or wounded in the Normandy campaign.

 

D-Day, in other words, was a turning point of the Second World War. But of course you know that, don’t you? Well, if you are a student in a Canadian high school, or a college or university, maybe not. Many years ago, I did a feature profile on Richard Rohmer, a military man who, back on June 6, 1944, was a young reconnaissance pilot. He witnessed the entire Normandy invasion from the air. I remember him telling me about it. I remember his eyes tearing up when he told me about another pilot who was shot down right in front of him.

 

Another time when I was a newspaper reporter, I did a story on this remarkable reunion that took place at a Toronto hotel. A group of Belgian citizens were holding what would be their last get-together with the Canadian soldiers who had liberated them from Nazi Germany. The love in that room was profound. More than 1,500 Canadian soldiers are buried in Belgium.

So what is it worth? To Canadians, apparently not much. History is now a low priority in our schools. In Ontario, you can take a history course for one semester in the first year of high school and never touch a history book again. I know from years of teaching college courses how aware most students are when it comes to history.

 

When my agent was shopping around my novel, The Last Witness, which is about the last living survivor of the Holocaust in a near-future world that doesn’t know history, one publisher turned it down because they didn’t buy the premise that people would know so little in one generation. So I made a video. We interviewed university students in Toronto and asked them questions about the Second World War. Most had no idea who the Allies were. They couldn’t identify Franklin D. Roosevelt or Winston Churchill. They didn’t know how many were killed in the Holocaust. They told me D-Day happened on Feb. 14. That it took place in London. That it was some battle we lost. Or — the more common response — they had no idea what it was all about.

The video was shot three days before Remembrance Day. What would a Canadian veteran who stormed Juno Beach on June 6, 1944 — he would be about 90 now — think when he hears that university students in this country know next to nothing about D-Day and this country’s monumental efforts on that day and in that war?

 

The problem is not unique to Canada. In the United States, the United Kingdom and other countries, the level of knowledge among the young is also feeble. I can cite all kinds of surveys and polls that would make your hair stand on end. But why not find out for yourself? On Monday venture onto a university or college campus and ask students about D-Day. You might be in for a surprise.                    

 

Contents           

On Topic Links

 

The Militia Commander Beating Back ISIS in Iraq Makes the U.S. Nervous: Nour Malas, Wall Street Journal, June 2, 2016 —Behind the rise of a paramilitary force in Iraq credited with saving the country from Islamic State is an Iran-trained jihadist the U.S. wants far from the battlefield.

Our Iranian Allies: Lee Smith, Weekly Standard, June, 2016—Last week pictures of Qassem Suleimani started to circulate on social media, which is always a pretty sure sign that an Iranian military campaign is about to kick off somewhere in the Middle East.

Iraq's Uncertain Future: Amatzia Baram, Middle East Forum, May 23, 2016—The bloodless storming of Baghdad's parliament by followers of the prominent Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr on April 30th challenged Prime Minister Haider Abadi's authority and exposed the fragility of his regime.

Painful Lessons from the 75th Anniversary of the Farhud: Edwin Black, Jewish Press, June 1, 2016—June 1-2 is the 75th anniversary of the Farhud, the 1941 pogrom by pro-Nazi Arabs attempting to exterminate the Jews of Baghdad. Hundreds were murdered and raped, and many Jewish homes and business looted and burned during a two-day orgy of hate and violence orchestrated by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini.

 

 

                  

 

 

 

NOT WITH A BANG, BUT A WHIMPER— HAS OBAMA ENDED IRAQ WAR PREMATURELY?

Last Friday, US President Barack Obama announced that “the long war in Iraq will come to an end by the end of this year,” marking the conclusion of a nearly 9-year war that cost the U.S more than 4,400 lives, more than 33,000 injured servicemen and servicewomen, and upwards of one trillion dollars. As the approximately 45,000 American troops in Iraq begin their phased withdrawal, many questions remain, primary of which is whether Iraq is in fact “safe, stable, and self-reliant,” as the White House claims, or whether a war-torn society, governed by a fractured and frail government, can resist and overcome the challenges that lie ahead. And lurking in the shadows is Shiite Iran. As described this past July by then-Joint Chiefs Chairman US Adm. Mike Mullen, "Iran is playing an out-sized role [in Iraq].” The departure of US forces from Iraq stands to further empower Tehran’s mullahs, as another roadblock to their pursuit of nuclear weapons and Middle East hegemony will soon be removed.

 

AN END TO THE IRAQ WAR? ONLY FOR THE U.S.

Editorial
Washington Post, October 22, 2011

“The long war in Iraq will come to an end by the end of this year,” President Obama announced [last] Friday afternoon. That will be true only for American soldiers. Iraqi insurgents, including al-Qaeda, continue to wage war against the country’s fragile democratic government; Iran sponsors its own militias and has been accelerating its effort to dominate its neighbour.… And a tense standoff goes on between ethnic Kurdish and Iraqi government forces in northern Iraq—where Turkey has just launched its own armed incursion.

It could be, as White House officials argued, that the government of Nouri al-Maliki and its armed forces can manage all these threats without help or training from American soldiers, who have already played a secondary role since the end of combat operations last year. But Mr. Obama’s decision to carry out a complete withdrawal sharply increases the risk that painfully won security gains in Iraq will come undone; that Iran will be handed a crucial strategic advantage in its regional cold war with the United States; and that a potentially invaluable U.S. alliance with an emerging Iraqi democracy will wither.

Mr. Obama portrayed the complete pullout of the 43,000 remaining U.S. forces as the product of “full agreement” with Mr. Maliki, whom he invited to Washington in December to work on a future partnership. In fact, both governments were internally divided. The majority of Iraqi leaders sought a continued U.S. troop presence as a check on Iran and a guarantor of a strong alliance—just like other American allies in the Persian Gulf. But Mr. Maliki found it hard to face down the Iranian-backed party in his government; he eventually brokered a bad compromise under which Iraq proposed that U.S. training forces remain but be denied the legal immunity the Pentagon insists on elsewhere in the world.

That gave Mr. Obama a ready reason to side with White House advisers who had argued against a stay-on force all along. U.S. military commanders, with an eye on Iran, had planned for a troop contingent of up to 18,000. But civilian aides argued that U.S. and Iraqi security forces have demonstrated the ability to maintain control even as U.S. forces have pulled back.… Washington, they say, has the means to maintain influence through its arms sales to Iraq and the trainers who will accompany them—not to mention a U.S. embassy that will be among the largest in the world.

The next year or two will show whether that calculation is correct. In the meantime Mr. Obama will surely boast on the campaign trail, as he did at the White House, that he has fulfilled his 2008 pledge “to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end.” End it will, for Americans if not for Iraqis; as for “responsible,” count us among the doubters.

SNATCHING DEFEAT FROM THE JAWS OF VICTORY IN IRAQ

Ryan Mauro
FrontPage, October 24, 2011

President Obama has announced that all U.S. troops will leave Iraq by the end of the year, with the exception of 160 soldiers to guard the embassy. The premature withdrawal will force the Iraqi leadership into Iran’s arms, bringing the regime closer to its dream of creating a Shiite crescent to destroy Israel. And in a shrewd political maneuver, President Obama took credit for the “success” and left out the inconvenient fact that the timeline he followed was signed under President Bush.

The administration is deceitfully saying that this was the plan all along when that is demonstrably false. The U.S. pressured the Iraqis to come to an agreement on extending the U.S. stay into 2012, and almost every Iraqi political party approved. General Lloyd Austin asked that 14-18,000 troops remain; a number that did not make President Obama happy. The number was reduced to 10,000, earning the support of Secretary of State Clinton. That, too, was too much for President Obama. It fell to 3-4,000, raising significant concern about whether it’d be enough. Now, it has been announced that all of the remaining 39,000 troops will come home by Christmas.…

Left behind will be 5,000 security contractors for the State Department and 9,500 for the Defense Department. Thousands of more American contractors will stay for logistical support. Also staying in Iraq will be Iran’s proxies like Moqtada al-Sadr, who vowed to target every single U.S. soldier remaining in Iraq next year. Let’s hope he doesn’t view the contractors as legitimate targets, because the U.S. won’t have the forces on the ground to fight his forces. Other Iranian-backed militias like Kaitab Hezbollah, Asaib Ahl al-Haq and the Promised Day Brigade will also still be around, and will outnumber the Americans.

It is true that the final decision to carry out a complete withdrawal was based on the Iraqi refusal to grant immunity to American soldiers. Prime Minister al-Maliki wanted to grant them immunity, but it was politically impossible because the Sadrists could bring down his government. The U.S. was defeated politically by al-Sadr, but it didn’t have to be that way.

The U.S. could have put the soldiers on the payroll of the U.S. embassy, automatically granting them diplomatic immunity, instead of seeking the approval of the Iraqi parliament. The issue would have been separated from the negotiations. Additionally, the U.S. failed to reach out to other Iraqi political parties and figures, such as Iyad Allawi, a secular Shiite opposed to Iran, whose support could have allowed al-Maliki to approve immunity. There was already bad blood between Allawi and the Obama Administration. After Allawi won the elections in 2010, he complained that the U.S. wasn’t supporting his attempts to form a government because it wanted to appease Iran.…

There is a direct correlation between U.S. strength and Iraqi willingness to stand up to its enemies. When the security situation was at its worst in 2006, the majority of Iraqis wanted U.S. forces to depart. Once the surge began, al-Maliki took on the Iranian-supported militias. Moqtada al-Sadr fled to Iran. The Iraqis looked upon the U.S. presence more favorably as the country stabilized. This summer, when Iran escalated attacks on American forces, the U.S. said it would not stand for it and would take action. The Iraqis privately confronted Iran, and the attacks sharply and quickly fell. On the other hand, when the U.S. declined to back Iraq in its confrontation with Syria in 2009, [Iraq] decided to mend its ties with the Assad regime. The Iraqi government is now taking Assad’s side as he tries to crush the uprising against him.

If Iran dominates Iraq, the regime (especially Ahmadinejad) will view it as the fulfillment of prophecy and a vindication of its End Times-based worldview, as expressed in its documentary, “The Coming is Upon Us.” Iraq plays a central role in Shiite Islamic prophecy. A senior Hezbollah official in Lebanon was not coy about what will follow a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. A “Shiite crescent” will form, bringing together 100 million people against Israel. Hundreds of thousands of “martyrs” will die and Israel will use nuclear weapons, but the Jewish state will be destroyed. There were two things stopping this, he said: The U.S. presence in Iraq and the potential overthrow of Bashar Assad in Syria. The U.S. withdrawal removes these two barriers.

Secretary of State Clinton warns Iran to not interpret the withdrawal as U.S. weakness. She points out that the U.S. still has bases and allies in the region. However, Turkey is far from a reliable ally now. Egypt, Yemen and Jordan are threatened with Muslim Brotherhood takeovers, which the Iranian regime also views as the fulfillment of prophecy. Qatar has moved into the Islamist camp, and Iran has the capability to massively retaliate against pro-American Arab regimes. Even if the pro-American Arab governments stand by the U.S. now, Iran will essentially have a border with Israel if it dominates Iraq and if a war commences, these states will be politically forced to side with Iran.…

Iraq has made immense progress since the days of Saddam Hussein and since its near-collapse in 2006. The security forces have improved in their ability to protect the country, and nearly 5,000 American soldiers have lost their lives to get Iraq to this point. If Iran steers the direction of Iraq, then it will have gone a long way in creating its Shiite crescent and the U.S. will have paid the cost for it to happen.

HOW THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION BUNGLED
THE IRAQ WITHDRAWAL NEGOTIATIONS

Josh Rogin

Foreign Policy, October 21, 2011

The Obama administration is claiming it always intended to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of this year, in line with the president’s announcement [last Friday], but in fact several parts of the administration appeared to try hard to negotiate a deal for thousands of troops to remain—and failed.…

Deputy National Security Advisors Denis McDonough and Tony Blinken said in a White House briefing that this was always the plan. “What we were looking for was an Iraq that was secure, stable, and self reliant, and that’s what we got here, so there’s no question that was a success,” said McDonough, who traveled to Iraq last week.

But what about the extensive negotiations the administration has been engaged in for months, regarding U.S. offers to leave thousands of uniformed soldiers in Iraq past the deadline? It has been well reported that those negotiations, led by U.S. Ambassador James Jeffrey, Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and White House official Brett McGurk, had been stalled over the U.S. demand that the remaining troops receive immunity from Iraqi courts.

“What the president preferred was for the best relationship for the United States and Iraq going forward. That’s exactly what we have now,” McDonough said, barely acknowledging the administration’s intensive negotiations. “We talked about immunities, there’s no question about that.… But the bottom line is that the decision you heard the president talk about today is reflective of his view and the prime minister’s view of the kind of relationship we want to have going forward. That relationship is a normal relationship,” he said.

Of course, the U.S.-Iraqi relationship is anything but normal.… “Iraq is not a normal country, the security environment is not normal, the embassy is not a normal embassy,” said Marisa Cochrane Sullivan, managing director at the Institute for the Study of War, who traveled to Iraq this summer and has been sounding the alarm about what she saw as the mishandling of the negotiations ever since.…

Sullivan was one of 40 conservative foreign policy professionals who wrote to Obama in September to warn that even a residual force of 4,000 troops would “leave the country more vulnerable to internal and external threats, thus imperiling the hard-fought gains in security and governance made in recent years at significant cost to the United States.” She said that the administration’s negotiating strategy was flawed for a number of reasons: it failed to take into account Iraqi politics, failed to reach out to a broad enough group of Iraqi political leaders, and sent contradictory messages on the troop extension throughout the process. “From the beginning, the talks unfolded in a way where they largely driven by domestic political concerns, both in Washington and Baghdad. Both sides let politics drive the process, rather than security concerns,” said Sullivan.…

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon(R-CA) echoed those sentiments in a statement and expressed skepticism that Iraq is as “safe, stable, and self reliant” as the White House claims. “Multiple experts have testified before my committee that the Iraqis still lack important capacities in their ability to maintain their internal stability and territorial integrity,” McKeon said. “These shortcomings could reverse the decade of hard work and sacrifice both countries have endured to build a free Iraq.…”

IRAQ WITHDRAWAL, A GIFT TO IRAN

Editorial
National Review, October 24, 2011

If the Iranians pride themselves on playing chess while we play checkers, they never could have expected us to walk away from the board.

But that’s our next move in Iraq. President Obama announced [last] Friday that all of the roughly 40,000 U.S. troops will leave the country by the end of the year. We are thus handing the Iranians a goal they have sought for years—to remove us from Iraq entirely so they can better influence the country for their ends. It once seemed that Iraq could be a strategic ally and base for our influence in the Middle East; it now may become both those things for our foremost enemy in the region.

The Iranians must think they either are very lucky or—more likely very good. The announcement of our total withdrawal comes just weeks after the revelation of an Iranian plot to execute the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. on our soil. It comes as Iran’s key Arab ally, the Assad regime in Syria, is rocked by a revolt. Just as Tehran’s dangerousness is put in stark relief and as events in Syria threaten to deal it a strategic setback, it gets this windfall.

The Obama administration is talking out of both sides of its mouth on Iraq. On the one hand, it says the total withdrawal is the blessed advent of one of President Obama’s most cherished campaign promises, proof of how committed he’s always been to ending the Iraq War. On the other, it says on background that this is all the Iraqis’ fault, that we wanted to maintain troops on the ground after 2011 but the Iraqis wouldn’t budge. It appears that the first factor played into the second—the administration’s lack of commitment to Iraq was the crucial backdrop to its poor handling of inherently difficult negotiations with the Iraqis.

To continue to maintain troops in Iraq after the expiration of the current deal for our presence at the end of the year, we needed the Iraqis to agree to give our troops immunity. This is obviously always a sensitive issue. And negotiations with the Iraqis over almost anything tend to drag out to the breaking point. None of this should have necessarily deep-sixed a deal, given how many top Iraqi leaders say privately that they want to keep American forces in the country. The Obama administration foolishly insisted that the Iraqi Council of Representatives endorse an immunity deal, a political impossibility. But it’s hard to believe that if the administration truly wanted to make a deal happen it couldn’t have worked something out with enough patience and ingenuity.

Instead, President Obama took to the podium on Friday for a snap announcement of the end of the war.…

Our pullout is a bonanza for Tehran. Its militias were already active in Iraq. Now, it can use Iraq for bases for its proxy forces to spread its tentacles in the rest of the Persian Gulf. Independent ayotollahs in Iraq will have an incentive to keep their heads down. Political decisions of the Iranian-influenced Shiite bloc running the country are sure to begin to tilt more and more Iran’s way. Our diplomatic leverage will diminish, even as we maintain our largest embassy in the world in Baghdad. The Iranians will crow in Iraq and throughout the region that they were right that the Americans would eventually leave.

We expended a great deal of blood and treasure to topple Saddam Hussein, and then to establish enough order so that George W. Bush’s successor would only have to consolidate our gains. President Obama is careless enough to risk throwing it all away, and shameless enough to call it success.

VALOR UNSURPASSED

Michael A. Walsh
NY Post, October 24, 2011

President Obama’s decision to withdraw all US troops from Iraq means that, after nearly nine years of one of our most divisive wars, which cost more than 4,000 American lives and hundreds of billions of dollars, all our forces will be coming home by year’s end.

The wisdom of the complete pullout will be hotly debated, but what’s not in question is the valor, skill and sheer decency of the American troops. No matter how the Middle East turns out, they should come home to a hero’s welcome—and the unconditional thanks of a grateful nation.

In the decade since 9/11, American fighting forces have distinguished themselves once more as one of the finest in the world. Operating under battlefield rules of engagement that would have hamstrung their World War II and Vietnam-era counterparts, their every action monitored by military lawyers, parsed by an ideologically hostile media and lampooned by Hollywood, they shattered an unscrupulous and ruthless foe who ignored the laws of war in pursuit of its murderous ideology.

They also developed and perfected a new kind of modern warfare, with new weapons, tactics and a whole new way of thinking about special forces. The massed tank battles of Desert Storm, which drove Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait in 1991, may well be the last the world ever sees.

In their place have come electronic warfare, drones, body armor and sniper rifles that can kill an enemy a mile and a half away. Special Forces—once the “tip of the spear”—have become the spear itself; it was the Navy SEALs and the crack helicopter unit, the 110th SOAR, who took out Osama bin Laden.

Our forces dispatched Saddam with ease and wrapped up the first phase of combat within weeks of the 2003 invasion. When the Bush administration made the near-fatal mistake of confusing the rout of Saddam with victory, they rallied through the fog of war and hung tough until the 2007 Surge finally brought the restive country under control.…

Our all-volunteer armed forces have distinguished themselves time and again in the face of relentless provocations and cowardly attacks.… Despite the animosity from the elites on the home front, especially in the run-up to the 2004 election, our forces persisted. One of the reasons there has not been a successful al Qaeda operation in America…is that al Qaeda was destroyed as an effective fighting force in Iraq.…

It’s a bittersweet victory, to be sure. The Iraqis can’t wait to see us go, and there’s plenty of worry about what comes next there. Yet nothing can diminish what our troops have achieved or tarnish what they have done—and only a lack of national will can stop them from doing it again when destiny calls.

THE WAR IN IRAQ— THROUGH THE EYES OF THE BEHOLDER…

 

 

RUMSFELD’S ‘SLICE OF HISTORY’
Kimberly Strassel
Wall Street Journal, February 8, 2011

 

“I’d read other folks’ books about things I’d been involved in…and I’d think, My goodness, that’s not my perspective,” chuckles former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in [our] interview.… “I remember talking to [former Secretary of State] George Shultz and he said, ‘Don, that’s the way it is. Everyone has their slice of history and you need to write yours one day so that it is part of the records.’”

History, meet Mr. Rumsfeld’s view. With [the] release of “Known and Unknown”—the 78-year-old’s memoir…—“Rummy” is offering his slice of history.…

At the heart of Mr. Rumsfeld’s book is an important critique of the Bush administration that has been largely missing from the debate over Iraq. The dominant narrative to date has been that a cowboy president and his posse of neocons went to war without adequate preparation and ran roughshod over doubts by more sober bureaucratic and strategic minds.

What Mr. Rumsfeld offers is a far more believable account of events, one that holds individuals responsible for failures of execution. He describes a White House with internal problems, at the heart of which was a National Security Council overseen in Mr. Bush’s first term by Condoleezza Rice. Ms. Rice’s style of management, argues Mr. Rumsfeld, led to indecision, which in turn led to the lack of a coherent post-invasion plan, to a sluggish transfer of power to Iraqis, and to a festering insurgency. If nothing else, this gives historians something valuable to ponder as they work on an honest appraisal of the Bush years.…

Mr. Rumsfeld devotes an early chapter to his meditations on the purpose of the National Security Council (NSC), accompanied by his judgment that National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice did a poor job of airing and debating substantive disagreements between the State and Defense departments. Rivalries between State and Defense are nothing new, yet Ms. Rice’s most “notable feature” of management, writes Mr. Rumsfeld, “was her commitment, whenever possible, to ‘bridging’ differences between the agencies, rather than bringing those differences to the President for decisions.…”

The memoir relates notable instances when this dynamic played out, but none with more consequence than the muddled plan for post-war Iraq. The Defense Department pushed early on “to do what we’d done in Afghanistan”—where a tribal loya jirga had quickly anointed Hamid Karzai as leader. “The goal was to move quickly to have an Iraqi face on the leadership in the country, as opposed to a foreign occupation.” Mr. Rumsfeld’s early takeaway from NSC meetings was that “the president agreed.”

Yet Colin Powell’s State Department was adamantly opposed. It was suspicious of allowing Iraqi exiles to help govern, claiming they’d undermine “legitimacy.” It also didn’t believe a joint U.S.-Iraqi power-sharing agreement would work. These were clear, substantive policy differences, yet in Mr. Rumsfeld’s telling, Ms. Rice allowed the impasse to drag on.

The result was the long, damaging regency of Paul Bremer as the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority—which Mr. Rumsfeld believes helped inspire the initial Iraq insurgency. Mr. Bremer, who set up shop in one of Saddam’s opulent palaces, continued to postpone the creation of an Iraqi transitional government. He instead appointed a “governing council” of Iraqis but refused to give even them any responsibility. The result: delays in elections and in building post-Saddam institutions.…

Officially, Mr. Bremer reported to Mr. Rumsfeld. But he “viewed himself as the president’s man, had a background in the State Department, and a relationship with Condi Rice,” says Mr. Rumsfeld. So Mr. Bremer chose what guidance he preferred, which Mr. Rumsfeld describes as the equivalent of having “four or eight hands on the steering wheel.” Critical issues—whom the U.S. should support, who should have power, how quickly to turn over authority—lingered. I ask Mr. Rumsfeld why he didn’t simply fire Mr. Bremer. He says he couldn’t. Mr. Bremer was “a presidential envoy” and served at Mr. Bush’s pleasure.

Mr. Rumsfeld somewhat shields the president in his book. When the president was brought options, insists Mr. Rumsfeld, “he was perfectly willing” to make decisions. Then again, the book makes clear that Mr. Bush was aware of the ugly conflicts between State and Defense. And there’s no getting around Mr. Bush’s responsibility as wartime manager and Ms. Rice’s boss.

Mr. Rumsfeld is less blunt about his own department’s mistakes, though he does sidle into them. One question is why it took so long to replace Gens. George Casey and John Abizaid, on whose watch the Iraqi insurgency grew. Mr. Rumsfeld’s memoir notes that no one on the NSC or the Joint Chiefs had recommended they be removed by the autumn of 2006, Mr. Rumsfeld’s last months on the job. Yet he does acknowledge a visit in September of 2006 from retired Gen. Jack Keane, a key architect of the surge, who warned that the two generals were not “sufficiently aware of the gravity of the situation.” When I ask Mr. Rumsfeld if they were indeed left in Iraq too long, he concedes: “In retrospect, you could make that case.”

He isn’t as willing to acknowledge that he was slow to address Iraq’s insurgency. It was never one insurgency, he says, but rather it “evolved, and took different shapes.” The first wave, he says, was “Saddam and his Baathists attempting to regain power” aided by “criminals” whom Saddam had released from jail. Then came the influx of terrorists—“facilitated through Damascus”—coming to fight against Americans. Al Qaeda joined the fray, as did a Shiite uprising under Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army. “We couldn’t lose any battles over there, but we couldn’t beat them militarily,” he says. “Because there was no one to beat. It was a totally unconventional asymmetrical circumstance.”

Mr. Rumsfeld thus takes an unorthodox view of the significance of President Bush’s surge, which began to take effect in early 2007. He argues that by 2006 things were, in fact, improving in Iraq. The Anbar Awakening—which Mr. Rumsfeld credits as beginning in the fall of 2006—“had convinced a lot of Sunnis they didn’t want to be associated with al Qaeda,” and “the government of Iraq was evolving the ability to take on some of the radicals” with the help of Iraqi security forces that had become “very capable.”

As a result, he argues, the force of President Bush’s surge was as much “psychological” as anything else. “The president’s decision galvanized the opinion in Iraq. It said: ‘Look, if you think it is going to go to the insurgents, you are wrong.’” The fact of the statement, argues Mr. Rumsfeld, mattered as much as did the increase of troops “tactically or strategically.”

Though viewed by many as the spear of Mr. Bush’s “freedom agenda,” Mr. Rumsfeld also expresses misgivings about “nation-building.” He disagrees with the “Pottery Barn rule”—attributed to Mr. Powell—that “if you break it, you own it,” arguing Iraq was already broken under Saddam. While he acknowledges that the U.S. had security obligations to Iraq, he expresses discomfort with Mr. Bush’s broad promises for democracy, and he worries that countries too frequently develop an overreliance on the U.S.…

Mr. Rumsfeld’s critics are bitter that his memoir didn’t go the obvious commercial route, serving up a grand apology for his role in the wars. Yet readers might be appreciative to find themselves in possession of a serious memoir, more in keeping with the older Washington tradition of Dean Acheson or Henry Kissinger. As might the historians.

 

INSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE: THE RUMSFELD VIEW
Editorial
Wall Street Journal, February 8, 2011

 

Following are excerpts from former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s new book, “Known and Unknown.….”

Mr. Rumsfeld discloses that, in the run-up to the war in Iraq, Mr. Bush never asked his defense chief whether he thought the invasion a good idea:

While President Bush and I had many discussions about the war preparations, I do not recall his ever asking me if I thought going to war with Iraq was the right decision. The President was the one charged with the tough choice to commit U.S. forces. I did not speculate on the thought process that brought him to his ultimate, necessarily lonely decision. We were all hearing the same things in briefing after briefing, and one National Security Council meeting after another, mulling over what we knew of the Iraqi regime and what the intelligence community believed about its capabilities and intentions. Though there were differences among us, they were not differences at the substantive or strategic levels of whether or not to allow Saddam Hussein’s regime to remain in power. Not one person in NSC meetings at which I was present stated or hinted that they were opposed to, or even hesitant, about the president’s decision. I took it that Bush assumed, as I did, that each of us had reached the same conclusion.

As the occupation of Iraq turned ugly, stories emerged that Ms. Rice was going to take over management of postwar Iraq and oversight of Coalition Provisional Authority chief L. Paul Bremer from the Pentagon :

…I had been eager for the State Department to accept more responsibility in Iraq and would have been the last person to shut them out. When we asked the State Department to send experts to Iraq, they failed to meet their quotas. When we asked for support for reconstruction teams in Afghanistan and Iraq, they struggled to fill them. When the State Department was in charge of training the Iraqi police, it did not get the job done.… I was skeptical that either the National Security Council or the State Department truly wanted to be accountable for the administration’s Iraq policy, and I was all too aware that Rice and the NSC were not able to manage it.

On Oct. 6, 2003, I sent a memo to the president with copies to Vice President Cheney and [White House Chief of Staff] Andy Card. “In Monday’s paper,” I wrote, “Condi, in effect, announced that the President is concerned about the post-war Iraq stabilization efforts and that, as a result, he has asked Condi Rice and the National Security Council to assume responsibility for post-war Iraq.” I recommended that Bremer’s reporting relationship be formally moved from Defense to the NSC or state. I further noted that I had told Bremer months earlier that I would prefer to have him report to the president, Rice, or Powell.… No one took up my offer. In fact, Rice shortly thereafter reversed herself, apparently at the president’s insistence, and informed the press that, contrary to her previous announcement, nothing about the administration’s Iraq policy had changed.…

After the disclosure of abuses at the military’s Abu Ghraib detention facility, Mr. Rumsfeld writes that he offered his resignation in response:

The previous week had been excruciating because the scandal was so damaging to our armed forces and the country. I generally thrived under pressure, but I wasn’t thriving now. Abu Ghraib was threatening to consume the Defense Department, eclipsing the fine work thousands of service-men and -women did every day.…

On May 10, 2004, President Bush came to the Pentagon for a briefing on Iraq.… As we sat at the round table in my office overlooking the Pentagon’s River Entrance, I handed him a…letter of resignation. “By this letter I am resigning as secretary of defense,” it read. “I have concluded that the damage from the acts of abuse that happened on my watch, by individuals for whose conduct I am ultimately responsible, can best be responded to by my resignation.…” Nonetheless, [the President] insisted that he wanted some time to think about it and to consult with others. The next day, Vice President Cheney came to the Pentagon. “Don, 35 years ago this week, I went to work for you,” he said, “and on this one you’re wrong.” In the end, Bush refused to accept my resignation.

(Adapted from Known and Unknown: A Memoir by Donald Rumsfeld.…)

 

DONALD RUMSFELD’S IRAQ REVISIONISM
Dan Senor & Roman Martinez

Washington Post, February 15, 2011

 

What went wrong in Iraq? According to Donald Rumsfeld’s memoir, U.S. difficulties stemmed not from the Pentagon’s failure to plan for the war’s aftermath—or Rumsfeld’s unwillingness as defense secretary to provide enough troops to secure Iraqis after the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Rumsfeld pins most of the blame on the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) for its alleged mishandling of Iraq’s political transition in 2003-04, which “stoked nationalist resentments” and “fanned the embers of what would become the Iraqi insurgency.”

We were Defense Department officials through the early phases of the war and worked for the CPA in Baghdad. We have defended many of the difficult decisions Rumsfeld made and respect his service to our country. But his book paints an inaccurate and unfair history of U.S. policymaking concerning Iraq’s political transition.

Rumsfeld’s basic theme is that the CPA erred by failing to grant Iraqis “the right to govern themselves” early in the U.S.-led occupation. Rumsfeld claims that he favored a “swift transition” of power to an “Iraqi transitional government” and that the Bush administration formally endorsed this strategy when it approved the Pentagon’s plan for an Iraqi Interim Authority in March 2003. He writes that the head of the CPA, L. Paul Bremer, unilaterally decided not to implement this plan.

But Rumsfeld’s own contemporaneous memos undermine this notion. The 26 “Principles for Iraq—Policy Guidelines” that Rumsfeld gave Bremer in May 2003 said nothing about handing real power to Iraqis.… The CPA should “assert authority over the country,” he wrote, and should “not accept or tolerate self-appointed [Iraqi] ‘leaders.’” There should be “clarity that the Coalition is in charge, with no conflicting signals to the Iraqi people,” Rumsfeld wrote. He directed Bremer to take a “hands-on” approach to Iraq’s “political reconstruction,” noting that “the Coalition will consistently steer the process to achieve the stated objectives” and should “not ‘let a thousand flowers bloom.’” The “transition from despotism to a democracy will not happen easily or fast.…” he concluded.

If Rumsfeld’s goal was to quickly empower an Iraqi government, this was a strange way to communicate that objective.

Rumsfeld also claims that the Bush administration decided, before the war, to hand over power to an unelected sovereign Iraqi government. [However], shortly after the end of major combat operations, Undersecretary of Defense Douglas J. Feith testified before a House committee on May 15, 2003, that the administration planned for the CPA to govern Iraq. The CPA would establish an Iraqi Interim Authority (IIA), Feith explained, whose most important responsibility would be to design the process by which Iraqis would create a new Iraqi government after drafting a new constitution and holding elections.

The president and his top advisers explicitly decided not to make the IIA a fully empowered Iraqi government. As one declassified Pentagon memo explained, the IIA would “take responsibility” for overseeing certain government offices and ministries—but only as determined by the CPA. And Pentagon officials envisioned that the CPA would retain an absolute veto over any IIA decision.…

[Yet], Rumsfeld claims that it was “startling news” when Bremer wrote…in September 2003 that a fully empowered sovereign Iraqi government would take power only after elections were held under a new and democratic constitution. But Bremer had confirmed this exact sequence of events repeatedly in the summer of 2003, in private memos to the president and Rumsfeld, public speeches and the CPA strategic plan that he shared with Rumsfeld for comments in early July. Rumsfeld criticizes the plan now, but he agreed with it at the time: “You’re on the mark,” he wrote to Bremer in September 2003. “I agree with your memo and will send it to [the president] and members of the [National Security Council].…”

Without basic security for ordinary Iraqis, it was extraordinarily difficult to achieve lasting progress in Iraq, especially with respect to a political transition that required negotiation and compromise among competing factions. Establishing public safety was what we failed to do during Rumsfeld’s tenure. Only after he resigned and President Bush deployed more troops and a traditional counterinsurgency approach did things begin to turn around.

Policymakers in Washington and Baghdad did their best to craft workable solutions under extreme circumstances. We at the CPA certainly made our share of mistakes. We only wish Rumsfeld would accept responsibility for his.

(The writers were based in Baghdad in 2003-04 as officials of the Defense Department
and the Coalition Provisional Authority.
)

THE WAR IN IRAQ— THROUGH THE EYES OF THE BEHOLDER…

 

 

RUMSFELD’S ‘SLICE OF HISTORY’
Kimberly Strassel
Wall Street Journal, February 8, 2011

 

“I’d read other folks’ books about things I’d been involved in…and I’d think, My goodness, that’s not my perspective,” chuckles former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in [our] interview.… “I remember talking to [former Secretary of State] George Shultz and he said, ‘Don, that’s the way it is. Everyone has their slice of history and you need to write yours one day so that it is part of the records.’”

History, meet Mr. Rumsfeld’s view. With [the] release of “Known and Unknown”—the 78-year-old’s memoir…—“Rummy” is offering his slice of history.…

At the heart of Mr. Rumsfeld’s book is an important critique of the Bush administration that has been largely missing from the debate over Iraq. The dominant narrative to date has been that a cowboy president and his posse of neocons went to war without adequate preparation and ran roughshod over doubts by more sober bureaucratic and strategic minds.

What Mr. Rumsfeld offers is a far more believable account of events, one that holds individuals responsible for failures of execution. He describes a White House with internal problems, at the heart of which was a National Security Council overseen in Mr. Bush’s first term by Condoleezza Rice. Ms. Rice’s style of management, argues Mr. Rumsfeld, led to indecision, which in turn led to the lack of a coherent post-invasion plan, to a sluggish transfer of power to Iraqis, and to a festering insurgency. If nothing else, this gives historians something valuable to ponder as they work on an honest appraisal of the Bush years.…

Mr. Rumsfeld devotes an early chapter to his meditations on the purpose of the National Security Council (NSC), accompanied by his judgment that National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice did a poor job of airing and debating substantive disagreements between the State and Defense departments. Rivalries between State and Defense are nothing new, yet Ms. Rice’s most “notable feature” of management, writes Mr. Rumsfeld, “was her commitment, whenever possible, to ‘bridging’ differences between the agencies, rather than bringing those differences to the President for decisions.…”

The memoir relates notable instances when this dynamic played out, but none with more consequence than the muddled plan for post-war Iraq. The Defense Department pushed early on “to do what we’d done in Afghanistan”—where a tribal loya jirga had quickly anointed Hamid Karzai as leader. “The goal was to move quickly to have an Iraqi face on the leadership in the country, as opposed to a foreign occupation.” Mr. Rumsfeld’s early takeaway from NSC meetings was that “the president agreed.”

Yet Colin Powell’s State Department was adamantly opposed. It was suspicious of allowing Iraqi exiles to help govern, claiming they’d undermine “legitimacy.” It also didn’t believe a joint U.S.-Iraqi power-sharing agreement would work. These were clear, substantive policy differences, yet in Mr. Rumsfeld’s telling, Ms. Rice allowed the impasse to drag on.

The result was the long, damaging regency of Paul Bremer as the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority—which Mr. Rumsfeld believes helped inspire the initial Iraq insurgency. Mr. Bremer, who set up shop in one of Saddam’s opulent palaces, continued to postpone the creation of an Iraqi transitional government. He instead appointed a “governing council” of Iraqis but refused to give even them any responsibility. The result: delays in elections and in building post-Saddam institutions.…

Officially, Mr. Bremer reported to Mr. Rumsfeld. But he “viewed himself as the president’s man, had a background in the State Department, and a relationship with Condi Rice,” says Mr. Rumsfeld. So Mr. Bremer chose what guidance he preferred, which Mr. Rumsfeld describes as the equivalent of having “four or eight hands on the steering wheel.” Critical issues—whom the U.S. should support, who should have power, how quickly to turn over authority—lingered. I ask Mr. Rumsfeld why he didn’t simply fire Mr. Bremer. He says he couldn’t. Mr. Bremer was “a presidential envoy” and served at Mr. Bush’s pleasure.

Mr. Rumsfeld somewhat shields the president in his book. When the president was brought options, insists Mr. Rumsfeld, “he was perfectly willing” to make decisions. Then again, the book makes clear that Mr. Bush was aware of the ugly conflicts between State and Defense. And there’s no getting around Mr. Bush’s responsibility as wartime manager and Ms. Rice’s boss.

Mr. Rumsfeld is less blunt about his own department’s mistakes, though he does sidle into them. One question is why it took so long to replace Gens. George Casey and John Abizaid, on whose watch the Iraqi insurgency grew. Mr. Rumsfeld’s memoir notes that no one on the NSC or the Joint Chiefs had recommended they be removed by the autumn of 2006, Mr. Rumsfeld’s last months on the job. Yet he does acknowledge a visit in September of 2006 from retired Gen. Jack Keane, a key architect of the surge, who warned that the two generals were not “sufficiently aware of the gravity of the situation.” When I ask Mr. Rumsfeld if they were indeed left in Iraq too long, he concedes: “In retrospect, you could make that case.”

He isn’t as willing to acknowledge that he was slow to address Iraq’s insurgency. It was never one insurgency, he says, but rather it “evolved, and took different shapes.” The first wave, he says, was “Saddam and his Baathists attempting to regain power” aided by “criminals” whom Saddam had released from jail. Then came the influx of terrorists—“facilitated through Damascus”—coming to fight against Americans. Al Qaeda joined the fray, as did a Shiite uprising under Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army. “We couldn’t lose any battles over there, but we couldn’t beat them militarily,” he says. “Because there was no one to beat. It was a totally unconventional asymmetrical circumstance.”

Mr. Rumsfeld thus takes an unorthodox view of the significance of President Bush’s surge, which began to take effect in early 2007. He argues that by 2006 things were, in fact, improving in Iraq. The Anbar Awakening—which Mr. Rumsfeld credits as beginning in the fall of 2006—“had convinced a lot of Sunnis they didn’t want to be associated with al Qaeda,” and “the government of Iraq was evolving the ability to take on some of the radicals” with the help of Iraqi security forces that had become “very capable.”

As a result, he argues, the force of President Bush’s surge was as much “psychological” as anything else. “The president’s decision galvanized the opinion in Iraq. It said: ‘Look, if you think it is going to go to the insurgents, you are wrong.’” The fact of the statement, argues Mr. Rumsfeld, mattered as much as did the increase of troops “tactically or strategically.”

Though viewed by many as the spear of Mr. Bush’s “freedom agenda,” Mr. Rumsfeld also expresses misgivings about “nation-building.” He disagrees with the “Pottery Barn rule”—attributed to Mr. Powell—that “if you break it, you own it,” arguing Iraq was already broken under Saddam. While he acknowledges that the U.S. had security obligations to Iraq, he expresses discomfort with Mr. Bush’s broad promises for democracy, and he worries that countries too frequently develop an overreliance on the U.S.…

Mr. Rumsfeld’s critics are bitter that his memoir didn’t go the obvious commercial route, serving up a grand apology for his role in the wars. Yet readers might be appreciative to find themselves in possession of a serious memoir, more in keeping with the older Washington tradition of Dean Acheson or Henry Kissinger. As might the historians.

 

INSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE: THE RUMSFELD VIEW
Editorial
Wall Street Journal, February 8, 2011

 

Following are excerpts from former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s new book, “Known and Unknown.….”

Mr. Rumsfeld discloses that, in the run-up to the war in Iraq, Mr. Bush never asked his defense chief whether he thought the invasion a good idea:

While President Bush and I had many discussions about the war preparations, I do not recall his ever asking me if I thought going to war with Iraq was the right decision. The President was the one charged with the tough choice to commit U.S. forces. I did not speculate on the thought process that brought him to his ultimate, necessarily lonely decision. We were all hearing the same things in briefing after briefing, and one National Security Council meeting after another, mulling over what we knew of the Iraqi regime and what the intelligence community believed about its capabilities and intentions. Though there were differences among us, they were not differences at the substantive or strategic levels of whether or not to allow Saddam Hussein’s regime to remain in power. Not one person in NSC meetings at which I was present stated or hinted that they were opposed to, or even hesitant, about the president’s decision. I took it that Bush assumed, as I did, that each of us had reached the same conclusion.

As the occupation of Iraq turned ugly, stories emerged that Ms. Rice was going to take over management of postwar Iraq and oversight of Coalition Provisional Authority chief L. Paul Bremer from the Pentagon :

…I had been eager for the State Department to accept more responsibility in Iraq and would have been the last person to shut them out. When we asked the State Department to send experts to Iraq, they failed to meet their quotas. When we asked for support for reconstruction teams in Afghanistan and Iraq, they struggled to fill them. When the State Department was in charge of training the Iraqi police, it did not get the job done.… I was skeptical that either the National Security Council or the State Department truly wanted to be accountable for the administration’s Iraq policy, and I was all too aware that Rice and the NSC were not able to manage it.

On Oct. 6, 2003, I sent a memo to the president with copies to Vice President Cheney and [White House Chief of Staff] Andy Card. “In Monday’s paper,” I wrote, “Condi, in effect, announced that the President is concerned about the post-war Iraq stabilization efforts and that, as a result, he has asked Condi Rice and the National Security Council to assume responsibility for post-war Iraq.” I recommended that Bremer’s reporting relationship be formally moved from Defense to the NSC or state. I further noted that I had told Bremer months earlier that I would prefer to have him report to the president, Rice, or Powell.… No one took up my offer. In fact, Rice shortly thereafter reversed herself, apparently at the president’s insistence, and informed the press that, contrary to her previous announcement, nothing about the administration’s Iraq policy had changed.…

After the disclosure of abuses at the military’s Abu Ghraib detention facility, Mr. Rumsfeld writes that he offered his resignation in response:

The previous week had been excruciating because the scandal was so damaging to our armed forces and the country. I generally thrived under pressure, but I wasn’t thriving now. Abu Ghraib was threatening to consume the Defense Department, eclipsing the fine work thousands of service-men and -women did every day.…

On May 10, 2004, President Bush came to the Pentagon for a briefing on Iraq.… As we sat at the round table in my office overlooking the Pentagon’s River Entrance, I handed him a…letter of resignation. “By this letter I am resigning as secretary of defense,” it read. “I have concluded that the damage from the acts of abuse that happened on my watch, by individuals for whose conduct I am ultimately responsible, can best be responded to by my resignation.…” Nonetheless, [the President] insisted that he wanted some time to think about it and to consult with others. The next day, Vice President Cheney came to the Pentagon. “Don, 35 years ago this week, I went to work for you,” he said, “and on this one you’re wrong.” In the end, Bush refused to accept my resignation.

(Adapted from Known and Unknown: A Memoir by Donald Rumsfeld.…)

 

DONALD RUMSFELD’S IRAQ REVISIONISM
Dan Senor & Roman Martinez

Washington Post, February 15, 2011

 

What went wrong in Iraq? According to Donald Rumsfeld’s memoir, U.S. difficulties stemmed not from the Pentagon’s failure to plan for the war’s aftermath—or Rumsfeld’s unwillingness as defense secretary to provide enough troops to secure Iraqis after the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Rumsfeld pins most of the blame on the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) for its alleged mishandling of Iraq’s political transition in 2003-04, which “stoked nationalist resentments” and “fanned the embers of what would become the Iraqi insurgency.”

We were Defense Department officials through the early phases of the war and worked for the CPA in Baghdad. We have defended many of the difficult decisions Rumsfeld made and respect his service to our country. But his book paints an inaccurate and unfair history of U.S. policymaking concerning Iraq’s political transition.

Rumsfeld’s basic theme is that the CPA erred by failing to grant Iraqis “the right to govern themselves” early in the U.S.-led occupation. Rumsfeld claims that he favored a “swift transition” of power to an “Iraqi transitional government” and that the Bush administration formally endorsed this strategy when it approved the Pentagon’s plan for an Iraqi Interim Authority in March 2003. He writes that the head of the CPA, L. Paul Bremer, unilaterally decided not to implement this plan.

But Rumsfeld’s own contemporaneous memos undermine this notion. The 26 “Principles for Iraq—Policy Guidelines” that Rumsfeld gave Bremer in May 2003 said nothing about handing real power to Iraqis.… The CPA should “assert authority over the country,” he wrote, and should “not accept or tolerate self-appointed [Iraqi] ‘leaders.’” There should be “clarity that the Coalition is in charge, with no conflicting signals to the Iraqi people,” Rumsfeld wrote. He directed Bremer to take a “hands-on” approach to Iraq’s “political reconstruction,” noting that “the Coalition will consistently steer the process to achieve the stated objectives” and should “not ‘let a thousand flowers bloom.’” The “transition from despotism to a democracy will not happen easily or fast.…” he concluded.

If Rumsfeld’s goal was to quickly empower an Iraqi government, this was a strange way to communicate that objective.

Rumsfeld also claims that the Bush administration decided, before the war, to hand over power to an unelected sovereign Iraqi government. [However], shortly after the end of major combat operations, Undersecretary of Defense Douglas J. Feith testified before a House committee on May 15, 2003, that the administration planned for the CPA to govern Iraq. The CPA would establish an Iraqi Interim Authority (IIA), Feith explained, whose most important responsibility would be to design the process by which Iraqis would create a new Iraqi government after drafting a new constitution and holding elections.

The president and his top advisers explicitly decided not to make the IIA a fully empowered Iraqi government. As one declassified Pentagon memo explained, the IIA would “take responsibility” for overseeing certain government offices and ministries—but only as determined by the CPA. And Pentagon officials envisioned that the CPA would retain an absolute veto over any IIA decision.…

[Yet], Rumsfeld claims that it was “startling news” when Bremer wrote…in September 2003 that a fully empowered sovereign Iraqi government would take power only after elections were held under a new and democratic constitution. But Bremer had confirmed this exact sequence of events repeatedly in the summer of 2003, in private memos to the president and Rumsfeld, public speeches and the CPA strategic plan that he shared with Rumsfeld for comments in early July. Rumsfeld criticizes the plan now, but he agreed with it at the time: “You’re on the mark,” he wrote to Bremer in September 2003. “I agree with your memo and will send it to [the president] and members of the [National Security Council].…”

Without basic security for ordinary Iraqis, it was extraordinarily difficult to achieve lasting progress in Iraq, especially with respect to a political transition that required negotiation and compromise among competing factions. Establishing public safety was what we failed to do during Rumsfeld’s tenure. Only after he resigned and President Bush deployed more troops and a traditional counterinsurgency approach did things begin to turn around.

Policymakers in Washington and Baghdad did their best to craft workable solutions under extreme circumstances. We at the CPA certainly made our share of mistakes. We only wish Rumsfeld would accept responsibility for his.

(The writers were based in Baghdad in 2003-04 as officials of the Defense Department
and the Coalition Provisional Authority.
)